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Neighbourhood Plan

We'll submit plan to MSDC by the end of June says outgoing NP chairman

The Neighbourhood Plan will be finished and submitted to the district council by the end of June. That's the upbeat message from founder chairman John Worthington who is standing down to take on a more strategic role.

While the plan is finished off with parish councillor Sue Innes as the new chair, John will be focussing his attention on village strategies up to 2040.

John took the helm of the parish council's working party in November 2017 and in an email to parish council chairman Tony Oakes wrote: "It is now just over a year ago that I agreed to take on the chairing of the Neighbourhood Plan planning group reporting to the Parish Council (PC), and providing a voice for the community.

"It has been a difficult journey, which other villages have also faced. With Sue (Innes) and Barry (Cable) now on the parish council and Lisa (Auchterlonie) on the LNDP steering group  I feel confident we now have an active working relationship with the PC who have responsibility to Mid Suffolk District Council for delivering a plan agreed by the village community through referendum. 

"We currently have a coordinating team with Sue responsible for the spatial framework; Candida (Wingate) community engagement; Barry budget and programme and myself coordinating the structure of the report.

"Much of the information we required has now been collected, consultants are appointed and we are in the process of agreeing the structure of the report which meets the expectations of the planning authority, takes a 20-year perspective and provides an agenda for active community engagement for the village to achieve the aspirations of the plan.

"At our steering group (meeting) on February 6 I informed the group that I wished to stand back from chairing the Neighbourhood Plan (NP) delivery group, support the team and take a broader external strategic role. It was agreed that Sue chair the group reporting the PC who will have the long term ownership of the report. 

"I have every confidence in Sue and having a NP adopted before the end of year. From the teams perspective the Plan should be completed for submission to Mid Suffolk by end June. I Look forward to continuing to support the team and  ongoing community initiatives."

Huge response to questionnaires roll-out

By Sue Innes

More than 170 household questionnaires were returned – representing approximately 50% of the Laxfield population over 28. This is a very encouraging level of response to the questionnaire and we can move forward with confidence using these views to frame the next stages of development of the Neighbourhood Plan.

Just 12 Young Adult questionnaires returned – representing approximately 7% of that part of the Laxfield population (aged 16-28). It is clear from this level of return that we need to do more to engage the younger Laxfield residents and to encourage them to take an active part in the development of the Plan.

The group will explore all the potential work packages that AECOM can offer, to establish what we can take up of their offering that will be of most benefit to Laxfield and what implications taking up any of those work packages might have on the timescales we have set out in our work plan.

We have agreed a work plan for the development of the Neighbourhood Plan, with the intention of producing the Draft Plan for submission by the end of March.  This is of course not set in stone – we are all aware that things don’t necessarily go according to plan – but is a clear objective for the group.  A copy of the work plan as it stands at present is attached for information; it is a living document which is regularly updated, so this version represents a snapshot of where we are now.  Key dates to be noted are the ‘Emerging Options’ consultation which we would like to hold around w/c 21 January 2019, and the six-week Village Referendum which is proposed for mid-February 2019.

We have agreed the draft contents of the Plan, and have established work groups to take forward its component parts.  Each work group is led by one of the group members, but the intention is very much that they will engage other people in discussion/research/conversations and whatever else is necessary to develop their own topic area in a way that will inform the development of the Plan.  A copy of the spreadsheet showing the work groups, the group leaders and the content that forms a starting-point for their investigations is also attached for information.

We have scheduled a feedback session for the work groups in mid-December (precise date to be agreed) which will be facilitated by consultant Ian Poole.  This meeting will produce a framework for the substance of the draft Plan, and shape the policies and proposals that the Laxfield community will be asked to comment on in January.

We will be contacting people to encourage them to walk around the village and the Parish and to contribute their thoughts on what we have, what we value, what is missing and what we might make more of in our area.  We have a meeting scheduled on 5 December to which all those who have walked either with a work group leader or separately will be invited, with the intention of sharing and recording those observations.  We will also encourage people to do the same thing on Boxing Day, perhaps as part of the traditional village walk.

Government cash boost

The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government has backed Laxfield Parish Council's Neighbourhood Plan bid with the first batch of financial support.

The council asked for:

  • A basic grant of £9,000
  • An additional grant of £8,000
  • Free technical support through AECOM

First request was for £8,000, virtually all of which would be paid to a consultant who would take the plan a long way down the road by March 2019.

  • The Government challenged some of the costs for public display material and has given a grant of £6,477
  • In return the parish council must:
  • Deliver 12 (or so) land usage policies (similar to the Lawshall plan)
  • Identify the conservation area and rules surrounding it
  • Determine ways our heritage assets and listed buildings will be protected
  • Identify land reserved as green spaces
  • Consider and publish our own design guidelines for new builds (with professional help from our partners).
  • Do our own 'call for sites'
  • Undertake due diligence on those sites (via our partners)
  • Earmark possibly two but not more than four potential sites for small scale development (with professional help)
  • Highlight areas where land needs to be carefully managed such as the school and pre-school, playing field and footpaths.

Living Laxfield Open Day

By Candida Wingate 

First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who came along to the Village Hall on Saturday, 7th July, to share their thoughts on how they’d like to see Laxfield develop in the future; I believe there was a football match going on somewhere at the time, so we’re particularly grateful to those who tore themselves away from the beautiful game to come along and join us.

The event was laid out in a market-stall style, with seven tables each dealing with a different aspect of parish development, from green spaces and local employment to, of course, the nature and siting of housing developments, local heritage and transport.

Visitors were invited to leave comments – which they did in abundance; we will now take those comments and factor them in to a general questionnaire, to be distributed to every household in the parish in September.

However, we really wanted to share some of those comments with you now, particularly the ones relating to activities at the village hall. With the summer here and the warm nights not getting any cooler, now may be just the time to start an activity or set up a new group.

Here are just a few of the requests and comments received at the meeting: -

  • [Could we have] a table tennis club, possibly in the village hall? Would any young people be interested in a drama club? Someone in the village is interested in setting one up?
  • An inter-sports tournaments would be fab. And an annual rounders tournament to raise funds for more equipment.
  • [We need] more things for young children to do.
  • Outdoor gym equipment in the park would be great – it would be beneficial for health, too.
  • More facilities for young adults – teenagers, eg skate park/hub.
  • And finally. Please can someone start a netball team? There are quite a lot of ladies who’d like to play but not one of us is an organised sort!!

This list is by no means exhaustive, and of course it was noted that lots goes on in Laxfield already – but there’s also evidently an appetite for more and we don’t need to wait for a Village Plan to set some of these things in motion.

So, if you are interested in getting involved in any way, please email and I’ll try and get people in contact with one another.

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Team takes its message to market

Members of the Laxfield Neighbourhood Plan team were at the market on Saturday, April 7 for the first of its monthly stalls taking the message to the village.

Candida Wingate afterwards produced this piece of word art to capture the main themes of what people had to say.

Market word cloud 3

Visitors were invited to write their views of what the village has to offer, perhaps what it lacks and how they would like to see it develop over the coming years.

All villages have the opportunity to put together a development plan and your parish council has taken the step of inviting volunteers to help them form a plan.

The plan is intended to 'add value' to the district council's development plan and it has to be what villagers want, so this consultation is part of the information-gathering. There will be discussions with groups and societies and a questionnaire will be issued to every household.

At the market visitors were invited to write on a piece of bunting what they thought of when they did their own appraisal of Laxfield as a place to live. Here are some examples, ranging from those who want a skate park to parking for disability scooters to making this a dementia-friendly village.

What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

A Neighbourhood Plan is part of the central government’s localism agenda and is intended to give communities a greater say in the future of the places where they live.

It means that local communities can have their say on

  • Where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built
  • What those new buildings should look like
  • How services and amenities might grow and develop, for the benefit of all residents.

Why is a Neighbourhood Plan important to Laxfield?

A Neighbourhood Plan is important because it gives residents a say on how they would like to see their village develop. Click on the image below for a guide to how a plan is produced.

Quick Guide

In our district, planning decisions are made by Mid Suffolk District Council: it is not the parish council that decides, although they, in the same way as the police, county highways and neighbours, can express an opinion.

A Neighbourhood Plan would reflect the community’s needs, and would stand alongside the local plan prepared by Mid Suffolk District Council in determining how planning applications in Laxfield are decided.

  • In light of the national situation, this is increasingly important because central government has identified a national shortfall in housing.

  • Mid Suffolk has been told it must provide approximately 10,000 sites for new homes between 2014 and 2036.

How will the plan be prepared?

Producing a Neighbourhood Plan is recommended to take between 18 months and two years, though it can be longer.

Central to its success is making sure everyone in Laxfield feels they can take part in that process.

It’s vital that everyone is either directly involved or represented, from our very youngest residents to the oldest, and from people who work here to those who commute great distances but come home to Laxfield.

In the first instance, we would like to encourage people to think about the things that make Laxfield their home, what they value and love about living in here.

We will be talking to as many people as possible, from social groups and societies to householders, schoolchildren and businesses, to find out what those things are.

Please invite us to your group, so that we can get the ball rolling.

We will also run a stall at the market each month for the next few months, to invite comments. We also intend to run an Information Event during the summer – and will keep everyone posted on when that will be.

All of this will take some time, and by the autumn we hope to have a broad range of views. These will be used to produce a survey, which will be sent to every household in the village.

In this way, through a mixture of informal discussions, open forum, talking to special interest groups, public displays, website pages, social media such as WhatsApp and an official survey distributed to every household in the village, we hope to engage everyone in the process of preparing the Laxfield Neighbourhood Plan.

Who is doing all this and why?

A group of  residents volunteered to work alongside the parish council to develop the Neighbourhood Plan. Group members are David Alchin, Candida Wingate, Barry Cable and chairman John Worthington and from the parish council Lisa Auchterlonie and Sue Innes.

Planning new homes is and will always be contentious, but the neighbourhood plan can guide what is needed, where homes should be, the size and design of developments and who lives in them.

The neighbourhood plan can incorporate whatever the community feels is important to Laxfield. 

We are here to find out what makes Laxfield the place it is and to try to ensure it evolves but retains its identity and values.

A neighbourhood plan will be consulted for all future planning applications.

There’s plenty more room inside – if you fancy getting involved, if only for a few hours. Your support would be most welcome. Please have a chat with any of the group members and let them know how you would like to take part.

Designated area plan proposal

Mid Suffolk District Council has acknowledged receipt of the designated area application for Laxfield's Neighbourhood Plan - it's the whole parish.

To find out more